If you’re currently considering introducing an EHR system at your assisted living or memory care community, you’re no doubt weighing the potential impact on productivity, staff turnover, compliance, and patient wellness. There’s one more metric you should consider: family engagement.
Many assisted living communities don’t think to measure family engagement when they’re deciding how to gauge the ROI of switching to electronic health records. Here’s a case for why you should.
Why Family Engagement Matters for Your Bottom Line
When you’re putting together a case for investing in an EHR system, something like family engagement may seem like a nice-to-have. But it can actually be an important indicator for other key metrics. We’ll get to those in a minute.
Broadly, though, keep in mind that even the best nurses and CNAs won’t be as invested in any one resident’s wellbeing as that resident’s family. When you make it easy for family members and your staff to stay in touch, you give yourself a few gifts:
- An early-warning system for any changes that might signal a need for additional care. Families may notice subtle shifts your staff might miss. Plus, some residents may be more comfortable sharing concerns or symptoms with family members than staff. An engaged relative can pass on information that may be relevant to the care you provide, which can improve outcomes and make everyone happier.
- Greater trust among staff and family members. Familiarity breeds trust, so family members who have greater access to your staff can get to know and trust you, which can make for much easier communications in the event of an adverse incident.
- Time savings. When family members can only contact you and your staff by phone, you and your staff inevitably spend too much time repeating yourselves, leaving and listening to messages, and recapping information that could be more efficiently communicated in other ways. With an family-focused portal, staff and family members can communicate as easily as with any other app or group text function, using phone calls only when absolutely necessary.
Now here’s a look at specific metrics you can track to show concrete benefits to your bottom line that tie to each of these.
Metrics to Track to Measure the Benefit of More Engaged Families
When it comes time to make the case for measuring the ROI of your EHR platform, be sure to mention that having a family-facing portal as part of the platform can benefit your community by boosting engagement of residents’ families. When the finance team inevitably asks how to measure that engagement, you can offer these metrics (none of these is a direct measurement, but they’re all useful proxies):
- Staff time spent per family communication. Get a rough estimate of how much time your staff spends on family communication in the weeks before you roll out the new system. Track not only minutes but also number of conversations. Ideally, after introducing the EHR and its platform, your total time spent on communication will go down while the total number of touchpoints goes up.
- Satisfaction of residents’ families. If you’re not already collecting regular feedback from your residents and their families, now may be a good time to start. Creating a short survey asking about how happy families are with various components of their experience with your community is possible through their NPS system, Google Forms, SurveyMonkey, and others. If sending regular surveys is not realistic for your community, that’s okay. The other metrics here should be easier to track.
- Referrals. This is something that will only show up in the long term, but it’s well worth tracking. You’ll have to work with your sales team to get these numbers. Agree to check referral rates at regular intervals, comparing the numbers before and after you introduce the family-facing portal. More engaged families are more likely to be satisfied with your care and therefore more likely to recommend their friends.
- Elective move-out rate. Again, this is a long-term number. Residents who feel connected to their families are likely to be content in your community and therefore less likely to find reasons to move out when it’s not medically necessary. Steady revenue is just one benefit here; a stable community tends to breed happier residents, which can spur referrals and longer stays. So really, family engagement contributes to a virtuous cycle of improved experiences for everyone.
What to Look for in an EHR Platform to Improve Family Engagement
One important consideration if you want to promote family engagement as an EHR success metric: the EHR platform you choose needs to have features that make it easier for families to stay involved. These may not be part of the EHR system itself, but should be available from the same vendor, as an value-add feature that integrates seamlessly with the interface your staff is already using.
Caremerge achieves this with two features in particular:
- Family Engagement, our communication solution. Your staff can send photos of residents to family members, communicate via text message, and otherwise provide an ongoing stream of information without interrupting the flow of their day. This means family members are proactively kept in the loop about their loved ones’ daily lives and have many positive interactions with staff, rather than just conversations when something goes wrong.
- Calendar Central, our cloud-based calendar management system. The online calendar component lets family members check online at any time to see what activities are available to their loved ones. Its attendance function lets staff digitally check in residents who attend events, which lets family members see what their loved ones actually did during the course of the day.
Interested in learning more about how Caremerge can help improve family engagement in your community? Read a case study or let us show you a demonstration. We’d love to give you a better idea of what a community-focused EHR platform can do!